Be thankful that you have a life, and forsake your vain and presumptuous desire for a second one. – Richard Dawkins
I’ve been thinking about the illustrious Harold Camping’s apology for is failed multi-doomsday predictions. I guess we can all breathe a sigh of relief, or at least until December rolls around. This got me to thinking about the religious and their obsession with death, judgment, heaven and hell. They call the study of these things eschatology, which, in spite of the “ology,” is not science. It’s just bad philosophy. There’s a plethora of myths in the world regarding what happens to us after we die, and none of that qualifies as science, either. The reality of it, however, is that when we die organs stop functioning, we decay and eventually become part of the ecosystem.This is the natural progression of life. Unfortunately, this scares a lot of people – and we have the church to thank for allowing yet another branch of science become the basis of fear.
There is nothing to fear…
One explanation is not as good as another, but that point of view is the stock-in-trade of the religious. While it is true that there are aspects of our existence that science has not uncovered an explanation for, pulling any old thing out of your ass is hardly the best method of forming a hypothesis. Using God to fill in the gaps of our knowledge is little more than the projection of ignorance. It’s like filling in the missing fossils of the equine branch of evolution with pictures of unicorns drawn with a crayon.
There is nothing to fear about being dead. Getting there can be problematic given the suffering in the world, disease and, of course, death by violence. Dying can be quite painful, but death doesn’t hurt a bit. The fear of death is borne from the religious concept of eternal punishment after physical death, and this fear is the main source of the cognitive dissonance that is used to justify evangelism, indoctrination and unnatural behavior modification and plays upon the human desire to live on, which is evolutionary and very natural. We have a survival instinct that we share with every other animal on the face of the earth.
Nobody has ever come back from the dead, and there is significant evidence that near death experiences are the product of brain activity that, while in an unconscious state, consist of perceptions that are just not reliable. In fact, the phrase “life after death” is a scientific oxymoron, because death is final. A special note to you linguistic purists out there whose cockles just came alive when the word “resuscitation” popped into your head; yes, a person can be clinically dead and then resuscitated, but I am not referring to clinical death, but dead as in dead and buried, in the grave, plant food, pushing up daisies.
What The Hell…?
I have had conversations with people who have presented what they believe to be scientific evidence of the existence of a hell. They have shown me their charts, graphs, data they have collected from various sites on the Interwebz and, of course, personal testimonies of “respected theologians” who have visited hell as a guest of either Jesus or Satan and have “come back” with stories of unimaginable horror at what they saw – which solidifies in their minds that this scientifically proves that the place exists.
Silly me, I had no idea that scientific knowledge consisted of human sacrifice, eternal damnation, weeping, gnashing of teeth and worms that never stops turning. The whole concept of hell is a serious perversion of reality and is so far removed from science it is not even worth joking about. The fact is that there would be no fear of death without the belief in eternal punishment thereafter. The concept of hell remains one of the most effective marketing strategies that religion has to offer – even surpassing the equally ridiculous concept of heaven because the things we wish for don’t motivate us nearly as powerfully as the things we are in fear of.
The belief among almost all religions that our default existence after death will be one of eternal pain and suffering is genesis of evangelism and the reason why “Savior-centric” religions even exist. Christianity, with its personified evil known as the devil, supports the default eternal punishment myth because it has these same.
Added in to the mix is the self-perpetuating and centrifugal doctrine known as original sin, meaning that humanity is born evil and can do nothing on their own to redeem themselves, no matter how altruistic and selfless they are. This belief in hereditary evil makes redemption through adherence almost compulsory because self-salvation is impossible.
Religion will no longer be necessary when we realize that death is a normal part of life and places like hell are not real and when all of us realize that human beings are not born “as filthy rags.” No matter how much we may not want to die, it is inevitable.
What humanity needs to do is make the best use of the time we have while we are alive.